Bars try to lift dress standards

18:31, Sep 13 2013
Baretta Bar
TIDY/CASUAL: One of Christchurch's new bars, Baretta, has spruced up the city's bar scene dress-code a touch.

One of the Christchurch's hottest nightspots has a new dress code.

Members of the Victoria St Precinct, one of the most popular hubs for bars in Christchurch, have introduced a "street dress code" in an effort to raise standards in attire.

While the individual dress codes varied between bars, all had agreed to have a formal dress code based around degrees of "tidy dress".

Brett Giddens, co-owner of Revival Bar and Tequila Mockingbird, said bar owners on and near Victoria St had met to create a "street dress code".

"It's about getting that standard in there and that consistency," he said.

"We want people to know that if you come to Victoria St late at night wearing scruffy clothes, then you're going to have a problem at most of the bars, not just one of them."


The bars involved in the agreement were Revival, Tequila Mockingbird, King of Snake, Harlequin Public House, the Christchurch Casino, and would soon include The Carlton Hotel when it opens in a few weeks.

Outside Revival bar on Victoria St, a large sign on the gate makes the dress code clear.

No caps, jandals, rips, stains, skate shoes or hoodies would be allowed after 10pm.

Next door, at Tequila Mockingbird, collared shirts or dress jackets were essential for entry after 10pm.

"A lot of it is down to discretion from the bouncers if someone looks a bit untidy," Giddens said.

"If someone is dressed in a tidy way that is obviously their style and is not offensive, then we will usually let them in.

"It usually only takes people being turned away once before they realise they have to dress nicely."

At Harlequin Public House, owner Jonny Schwass said there were "no strict rules".

Jandals, shorts and skate shoes might be allowed depending on the attitude of the wearer.

"Some of the nicest people I know don't spend a lot of money on clothes, and a d...head in a suit is still a d...head, " Schwass said.

"We've been doing this long enough to tell someone's attitude pretty quickly."

Baretta, a trendy Italian place in St Asaph St, has a reputation for having a tough dress code.

Baretta co-owner Melinda Ferguson believed their dress code of "smart casual" was fair.

"We've invested a lot to create what we think is a really cool space and we want to uphold that. We're not trying to ruin anyone's night."

For the first few months there had been complaints, but now people were used to it.

"I think people enjoy that there is a place they can dress up and fit in," Ferguson said.

"People used to dress up for a night out and it would be nice to get back into that."

Ferguson is right; although most of Christchurch's bars are new, the dress code concept is not.

The Canterbury Club, first established in 1872, has had a dress code from day one.

Although the code has changed over the years, a tie and jacket are essential for most of the club.

In the members' lounge, a "relaxed code" means collared shirts and dress jackets are preferred.

"We follow popular business dress; if you don't wear a tie to work, it seems silly to have to wear one here," said general manager Rebecca Holmes.

But there is one thing throwing a spanner in the works of the city's new dress-code - rebuild workers.

Many bars "strongly discouraged" workers from wearing their hi-vis vests inside, including Harlequin House.

"We were a building site for three years, we don't really want to look like one now," Schwass said.

At Revival, tradies in gear were welcomed straight after work, but would have to change later.

"You get the occasional hi-vis vest come in after work for a beer and we don't turn them away," Gibbons said.

"It's when it gets closer to 10pm we tell them the dress code will be coming into force and they should go get dressed for the evening."

If all else fails, there remains one central-city option for those turned away from other premises.

One of the city's new bars - Smash Palace - remains resolutely relaxed on its dress code.

Owner Johnny Moore said because the bar was outdoors only, with customers huddling around fires, they had decided not to join with others in the street in enforcing a formal dress code.

"The only requirement is that you dress warmly. That and your attitude is much more important to us than whether you have a collar on or not."


Dress codes can be contentious, with many people believing it is their right to wear anything to the pub. However, legally a liquor licensee has the right to refuse a patron service at any time, as long as they do not breach the Human Rights Act.

The reasons for their refusal can include behaviour, intoxication and dress. Christchurch Hospitality chairman Brian Vieceli said dress codes were often controversial.

"There are different types of style and it can be quite personal what a term like ‘smart dress' is. It often varies from establishment to establishment."

Christchurch had a "stratified hospitality market" and different dress codes allowed for different types of bars, Vieceli said.

"A licensee has the right to have their premises how they see fit, and people do not have an automatic right to wear whatever they like." 

The Press